Letters

Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

Home · Articles · News · Random Thoughts · On the Road in India
. . . .

On the Road in India

Robert Downes - November 29th, 2007
A fruit bat the size of a cocker spaniel wheels overhead in broad daylight and flaps off into a grove of coconut palms on lazy wings. At my feet are rice fields stretching to the horizon and the canals of the Kerala Backwaters in southern India, also known as the Country of God.
After three weeks of kicking around southern India as one of four backpackers, I’ve gotten used to the place. It would be a stretch to say that India has “cast its spell” on me, but I have learned to see less of the trash and hassles, and to focus more on the colorful people, towering Hindu temples and lush scenery in this land of one billion souls.

So, here are some impressions of India from your humble correspondent after 1,000 miles on the road:

Did you know that many Hindus celebrate Christmas? It’s because they have 333 million gods in their religion, so it’s a cinch to add Jesus, Virgin Mary and Santa Claus to the mix as an excuse to celebrate.

Part of the fun of traveling rough is we ride the third-class sleeper trains. There are six hard bunks piled three-high in a compartment the size of a mini-van. You jam in all your gear and sit on a bunk, sharing with the Indian family across from you.
Also a hoot are the dusty, junky, clunker buses that seem to be held together with chicken wire. Most of these were considered wrecks 20 years ago when cities in Europe passed on their cast-offs to India. On yesterday’s ride, the driver’s spring-popping seat was held together with twine. He stayed alert by chewing a mild narcotic known as khat, mixed with fresh tobacco leaf. A bonus was the DVD film in the Hindi language, screeching at top volume through blown speakers on the bus’ TV.
The worst way to travel is by private car, doing the Dance of Death on the Highways of Hell. We whipsaw in and out of traffic, passing straight into the path of oncoming cars, buses, trucks and motorbikes, with all doing the same. This means thousands of near-misses on every drive. My sphincter is tied in a knot and my toes are permanently curled in fright...

You’ve got friends everywhere in India. Walk down any street and you’ll hear these words, repeated in a mournful monotone:
“Hullo. Hullo my fren’. Come see my shop, my fren’. Jus’ loook, no buy. Jus’ loook, my fren’.”
Indian hustlers all believe that tourists are automatic shopping robots. They’re right of course, but one can only buy so many statues of Shiva or ankle bracelets. My only consolation is knowing that it’s far worse in the “tourist bubble” of Rajasthan in northern India, which is said to be a perfect hell of hassle.

Strange, but true: 85% of all marriages in India are still arranged by your parents.
While having dinner at a local guide’s home in Mysore, he proudly told us of his daughter’s recent marriage. It seems that he had heard through the grapevine that a rich man’s son needed a wife. He put his daughter forward -- a lovely girl -- and she was interviewed by the young man’s parents. Then, he and his wife met the prospective groom.
Finally, the young couple got to meet -- IN PERSON! -- in his dining room, with both sets of parents looking on. They even got to talk for an hour alone to see if they were a match.
Then, with a flourish of his hand, the young man said, “I’ll take her!” and the deal was done.
Ah, but first, the girl’s father had to come up with 800,000 rupees as a dowry -- that’s $20,000 U.S. to us, but more like half a million bucks to a lower middle class family in India. No problem -- he simply called his relatives all over the world and told them of the golden opportunity his daughter had to marry a rich man’s son. The money flowed in.
The wedding included 4,500 guests -- not unusual in India where even middlin’ folks invite 2,000 or so. The newlyweds went to live at his mamma and daddy’s house, as all Indian couples do, to get to know the perfect stranger they’ll be spending the rest of their lives with.
As for the dowry, the groom’s parents keep the cash, and the bride keeps the gold jewelry “just in case” things don’t work out. A married woman who doesn’t wear heaps of gold jewelry is laughed at on the streets of India.

But what of the wedding night, you say? No worries -- all Hindu temples are carved with at least some of the 184 sexual positions of the Kama Sutra (literally, “sex techniques”). This is so all teenage boys and girls will know how to enjoy their love-lives when they marry.
The Hindus don’t have our uptight Calvinist/Puritan tradition which teaches that sex is “dirty.” They consider sex to be a gift from God and want to make sure their kids are doing it right. Imagine this graphic sex guide on the walls of your local church.
On the other hand, the people of India are incredible prudes: both dating and premarital sex are unheard of, and even kissing is taboo in the syrupy, romantic films of Bollywood. How this squares with the kinky temple carvings, I haven’t a clue.

It’s great to be able to watch Jay Leno and The Tonight Show on TV in India, providing you don’t mind seeing the shows from 2003. I caught an interview with Britney Spears in which she had just broken up with Justin Timberlake and was on top of the world.

You never know when you’ll meet an elephant in India. There are many out in the country, but I’ve also met several on the city streets and inside a Hindu temple that was the size of a baseball stadium.
I’ve been thrilled each time -- actually, more like electrified -- these huge creatures have eyes which shine with intelligence and they’re as friendly as pet dogs.
In downtown Pondicherry, one gave me a blessing outside the Temple of Ganesh, the elephant-headed god of good luck. His body was painted with sacred markings and the smell of incense filled the air. I placed a rupee coin in the nostrils of its rough, hairy trunk and bowed as it stroked my head for good luck.
That blessing is working so far, except for my tendency to explode from both ends at times, if you know what I mean. Our band of backpackers all came down with cases of projectile vomiting from different bugs than we’re used to in the food and water. It’s not much fun being sick, combined with the constant heat, crowds, traffic, pollution, grime and hassles of traveling in India, I assure you.

Speaking of which, if you want to get the people of India in stitches (or gagging) at a restaurant, then go ahead and eat your food with your left hand. This of course, is the “bathroom hand” in Asia, where they swab the “lower deck” with a splash of water and scrub with their fingers.
Many people eat with their fingers here, which involves rolling a gooey ball of rice, dripping with curry sauce and chunks of fish, chicken or eggplant, and popping it in your mouth. ALWAYS with the right hand, of course.

After two-and-a-half months of constant travel on my way around the world, I’m looking forward to kicking back in Goa, the beach party capital of this half of the planet, where thousands of kids from Europe and Australia flock for all-night raves, rubbing elbows with their jet-setting parents. Will let you know how it goes... Namaste.
 
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